Flash Fiction: Tenement Remnants

Traffic moved along at a slow and go pace while a flurry of snowflakes fell on this brisk November day — so miniscule in size — each one intricately designed with their own unique identity.

It was as if someone overturned a snow globe and gave it a vigorous shake.

Break lights, headlights and taillights glowed in the twilight creating color-coded patterns reflecting off the snow as they wheeled down the cold streets of London.

There was a lot that she would observe just by looking outside of her window. The architectural designs of her surroundings were grand and historic with a Victorian quality to them. Each building assisted in shaping a panoramic skyline off in the distance.

She would often imagine The Queen entertaining her extremely privileged guests with an extravagant soiree in The Garden of Buckingham Palace. Trafalgar Square conjured remembrances of peaceful protestations and politically charged demonstrations. The elongated, all glass structure of The Gherkin reminded her of a Faberge egg with its elaborate, fragile features.

Lots of time was spent looking outside of her window from inside the tenement that she acquired after a short stint in a women’s shelter. It became a habitual ritual of sorts. Engrained within her daily routine of things to do just in order to get through the day. Sometimes standing, often times sitting — for hours. Watching with a contemplative eye as people from all walks of life — angst-ridden teenagers, consenting adults, and roseate immigrants — passed by. Strutting with purpose. Sauntering with intention. Strolling aimlessly without a care in the world, or so it seemed.

Sometimes she would pick out certain people and create an entire backstory of who she imagined them to be just by looking at them from her window. They started to become living, breathing characters in her mind forming a narrative that only she could tell. Filling the voids in her life that were once filled by actual living, breathing people whom she no longer continued relationships with.

The unbearable weight of shame from hands that no longer held her lovingly but lovingly beat her; severed those relationships with the people she truly loved years ago. And the end result left her alone. Hoping for a reunion with the ones she once loved if not today, then someday.

There is a lot you can observe just by peering inside of a window as well, her window specifically.

Glimpses of light pierced through the cracks of her mini blinds exposing several finely spun cobwebs hanging from the far corners of the tenement’s ceiling. Visible only if you saw them from just the right angle.

She took a minimalistic approach when it came down to home décor. The color scheme fell somewhere in between monochrome and grayscale. On a scale of one to ten it seemed as if her homemaking skills landed on the negative end. Dust was everywhere, covering everything.

The sparse furniture in the living room became the permanent residence for numerous dust mites — those microscopic pests nesting within the sofa cushions and feeding behind the recliner pillows. The aging, off-white walls were without framed art or picture-perfect memories of familial bonding. Not a single sconce or mirror in sight.

Shelving attached to one of the walls displayed a rather bulky record player she found at a nearby consignment shop for cheaper than cheap. It was the centerpiece to a modest yet impressive collection of soulful voices encased within the jackets of vinyl records stacked in between wooden bibelots, plastic tchotchkes and ceramic figurines.

A television set radiated with the silly, mindless sounds of a game show involving a wheel that gets spun around to reveal a prize of monetary or materialistic gain.

Adjacent to the living room was the kitchen, quaint in size. Fitted with outdated appliances and old-fashioned cabinetry. The flooring was worn in certain areas with scuff marks and scratches scattered about.

She would often prepare meals for one consisting of foods from cans, jars and prepackaged containers that would take less than 20 minutes to prepare, and half that time to eat. Far from fine dining, but it nourished her body enough to wake her each day with enough energy to repeat her routine all over again the following day.

The dishes in the sink were stained and sullied with hardened specks of days old food adorning them. Fruit flies hovered. Water from the dripping faucet pooled into one of the soup bowls creating a waterfall effect onto the saucer beneath it. A faint shade of red lipstick graced the rim of a glass.

TAP! TAP! TAP!

The knock at the door was calm yet concerned.

“Ms. Vincent?”

The man’s voice sounded low and muffled on the other side of the door.

Seconds went by and she didn’t respond to his need to get in.

BUMP! BUMP! BUMP!

The knock at the door echoed throughout the entire tenement and was now followed by a heightened sense of anxiousness.

“Ms. Vincent!”

The man’s voice now sounded louder and sterner on the other side of the door.

More seconds went by and she refused to respond still to this man’s need to enter.

BOOM!

As soon as the door flung open a malodorous stench of death and despair permeated the expanse of the tenement.

The landlord of the tenement lingered in the broken doorframe gagging from the odor. Two constables on a wellness check entered with uncertainty. Unsure of what they were about to encounter.

Joyce Vincent lie there alone on the floor in her living room, decomposed. The remnants of her remains melded into the fibers of the carpet’s tapestry. For days, weeks, months…possibly even years — her body had wasted away into a putrefied muddle of liquefied viscera, bile and excrement. Staining the bottoms of the department store shopping bags that encircled her.

She died alone without ever having the chance of renewing those old relationships she so often looked back on.

© Patrice Washington

NEXT > BTG: Tenement Remnants – Backstory